Disclaimer: This article contains major spoilers for Season 1 and Season 2 of Netflix’s Kingdom. So, please read the article after watching the show. If you don’t care about spoilers, please read on. Also, if you have a problem with critiquing world leaders, get yourself checked up because you shouldn’t stan politicians no matter who or what they are and then read this article. If you don’t, please read on.
The ongoing Coronavirus pandemic has been trying in more ways than one. On a macro and micro level, humanity has taken hits physically, mentally, monetarily, culturally, and more. The state of our health department, our finance department, our police department, our education sector, our job sector has been exposed pretty damningly. However, the most mind-blowing revelation that this pandemic has smacked upon us is that none of us are Gods. We are all human and we are technically on a level playing field once we’re affected by the virus. Yes, privilege plays a huge role in the recovery phase but if you can get infected, it means you are human. And, believe it or not, that is unacceptable for many and I’ll observe that through the lens of Netflix’s Kingdom.
When we went into lockdown, entertainment writers like myself made lists and opinion articles on movies or shows about being isolated that we can watch because we’re isolated in our homes. Or we talked about movies or shows that dealt with the topic of a pandemic and how certain elements in it were a little too similar to what we are seeing right now. Season 2 of Kingdom came out in March. So, it was probably a lukewarm favourite during such discussions. And given my love for the South Korean show, I wanted to shine some light on it. But I didn’t want to do the generic “Something is causing a zombie apocalypse in the show. Something is causing an apocalypse in the real world. Parallels. Yay!” thing. So, I waited and waited and waited some more, and after looking at the current cyclone of shit that has and still is going around Donald Trump, Narendra Modi, Boris Johnson, and Kim Jong-un, I finally understood how I wanted to highlight Kingdom.
The show is directed by Seong-hun Kim and In-je Park and written by Eun-hee Kim. It stars Ji-Hoon Ju as the Crown Prince Lee Chang, Doona Bae as Seo Bi, Hye-Jun Kim as Queen Consort Cho, Suk-ho Jun as Cho Beom Pal, Seung-ryong Ryu as Chief State Councilor Cho hak Joo, Sang-ho Kim as Lee’s right hand Moo Young. And this is how shit hits the fan royally, literally. The King of Joseon is ill. No one is allowed to meet him and has to be given food in a certain way, which basically means that he has to be given humans because he has turned into a monster. Usually, the dead bodies are disposed of under the watchful eyes of Lord Cho. But for some reason, one dead body makes it back to a village, leading to a plague that almost decimates Korea. There’s carnage, there are death-defying stunts, there’s some top-notch action filmmaking. However, that’s not the part I want you to focus upon. Instead, I want you to draw your attention to the part where the King is ill.
The Crown Prince stumbles across a political conspiracy where the Chief State Councilor and many others around him know that the King is dead. But they don’t reveal it instantly because the problem that comes with is two-fold. One, it shows the King and his Government in poor light as they weren’t able to save him from an illness. Two, it means that the Crown Prince, who cares for the people and is not a fascist, will take his place and that’ll upend the Chief State Councilor’s (CSC) plans to put the Queen Consort’s son on the throne, thereby allowing him to lead in his stead. So, the CSC puts experimental drugs into the King and makes him an undead monster, which leads to him biting a kid, which then leads to the plague. So, the Government burns the whole world just to avoid any evidence of their failure from coming out. Now, turn your attention to what’s happening with Trump, what had happened with Kim and Boris, and just apply the same reasoning to Modi.
Trump tested COVID-19 positive a few days ago. The minimum quarantine period for this disease is 14 days and there’s no limit on the recovery period. What’s he doing or being made to do? He’s driving around the city in an air-conditioned SUV. He’s making videos to convince people how he’s fine. His spokespersons are not giving out any accurate information about his health conditions. And if I bend over backward a little bit, I can totally correlate all this with the ongoing elections and how his poor health condition will hamper his chances of winning because he has centered his campaign around protesting masks even though the country has around 7 million cases. Something similar happened to Boris who continued to waltz around and deny the danger of COVID-19 despite being diagnosed positive despite around 500k cases. There were rumours of Kim’s death after some form of grave illness, which was then deflected via the killing of a South Korean official because he was afraid he’d spread Coronavirus in North Korea. And India has almost stopped talking about the pandemic (While being the country with the second highest COVID-19 cases) even though half of Modi’s cabinet and the people he was around during the Ram Mandir religious ceremony had tested positive for COVID-19. So, why does this happen?
The most simple answer to this question is optics. Much like the leader and the people around him in Kingdom, leaders want to look invincible? They want to make sure that they’re above the common folk even though they are the ones who put them there. Millions of people are dying, so what? The leader shouldn’t break. The leader can’t break. Think about it. Trump has been portrayed as some representative of God
. He had put up a photo of his head morphed onto Rocky Balboa’s FFS. Modi’s fans have flouted his chhappan inch ka seena. News channels have said that every single one of his decision is a masterstroke or historic in nature. Someone has even called some version of Vishnu, a God in Hindu mythology. He has famously said that he rarely sleeps and works all the time. Kim, well, what can I say about how Kim has been portrayed? He’s called the Supreme Leader. That’s pretty self-explanatory. And the less I say about Boris, the better it is. This larger-than-live projection of these leaders allows for distortion of facts which then allows them to change the mood of the people (Because if you’re not backing a literal God, are you really worthy of being treated as a human being?) regarding them which then allows them to take business decisions that’ll put more money in their coffers.
The even simpler answer is that they, just like the King of Joseon and the Chief State Councilor in Kingdom, are men. While we don’t know a lot about the King, the CSC clearly sees the Crown Prince’s compassion and intellect as weaknesses. In addition to that, the CSC sees women as nothing more than child-bearers. This means that he has accepted the toxic conditioning that has gone through just because he’s a man and he cannot associate himself (Or anyone who he’s responsible for) to any bloody synonym of vulnerability. I know Modi loves to talk about how soft he was as a kid (I am referring to that crocodile story) but nothing about his politics, his speeches, or his agenda has anything remotely similar to that fictional softness. And while Modi pretends that he has a soft core somewhere inside him, Kim, Donald, and Boris don’t even do that. The only recent leaders who I’ve seen behave like they’re human by accepting their shortcomings are Jacinda Ardern (PM of New Zealand), Angela Merkel (Chancellor of Germany), and Shinzō Abe (The Former PM Of Japan) just because he at least accepted he was ill and dipped out. Has that diminished their stature in any way? No. Is the route that Modi, Kim, Donald, and Boris, helping them? No. (Spoiler alert!) Did the Chief State Councilor’s methods help him? A resounding no.
So, what’s the solution? Again, without spoiling anything, Kingdom shows that compassion gives room for logic and intelligence to thrive, which is exhibited by the Crown Prince, who then goes on to achieve some form of victory. I mean, it’s a Netflix show about zombies. Do you really expect a conclusive end after its second season? No. But I digress. The solution is that our leaders and the people who’ve built an ecosystem around them should cut the shit and get real. There’s no shame in accepting that Modi or Trump or Kim or Boris is human. That’s pure fact. There’s no God. There’s no Godly person. There’s no one with Godlike powers. That’s a fact. If you claim that you can lead us, you have to convince us that you are one of us. And in order to do that, you have to stop pretending you’re something supernatural. You can fall sick. You can get tired. You can get depressed. You can die. That’s the beauty of humanity. We’re not immortal and that’s what makes us special. If we spend this time lying that we are immortal, especially if we’re holding authoritative posts, we’re wasting our time and putting others in danger. There’s no end to lying. So, stop that. Accept the magnitude of the problem. Accept that you’ll need help. Accept that you might fail. Then hope for the best and prepare for the worst and maybe you’ll leave behind a legacy for people to look up to. FYI, right now they’re looking down.
In conclusion, I want to say is that go watch Kingdom on Netflix. It’s a fuc*ing awesome show. Those who’ve watched it already will know that I’ve deliberately left out some plot twists that happen due to the ignorance of the CSC because his vision is clouded by his hatred for the Crown Prince and his love for the throne. As mentioned before, I think you’ll definitely find parallels with the pandemic we’re facing today. But more importantly, I think you’ll come out of it with a better understanding of why the Government and every single branch of the organisation are reacting the way they’re reacting to a global goddamn pandemic that has caused the loss of jobs, money, and more. I think you’ll realise how important it is for you as a citizen to not get distracted from the real problem by that. And I wish that you’ll feel the urge to ask your elected officials to swap the bloody chest-thumping with some facts that’ll help you to assess the scenario better. If they don’t, look towards those who are doing so or being self-sufficient enough to fight the inevitable. Stay safe. Stay healthy. Sanitise regularly and wear your fu*king masks!
Cover artwork by Bhavya Poonia/Mashable India